he was spending too much time in the confessional,
they started to notice,
spent too much time cleaning up the wilted carnations
that never left the feet of wooden icons.
too much time dusting out the cupboards that held
the ironic white of robes and vestments.
"ah, how nice, he will be a seminarian!"
and parents glad, turned their eyes the other way,
never considered the way he never betrayed
any hint of betrayal,
for alas -
he never knew,
never got to that part of catechism
when reverend father took him aside
and took away his innocence.
I have a friend who thinks he can write poetry and sometimes he does manage to come up with something decent. Like he wrote this poem a few years ago and it really spoke to me on several levels, none of which, thankfully, included personal experience. Aesthetically speaking, I like how he repeated certain words and the rhythm this established. He did not lack too, for commentary, and criticism whether constructive or destructive is always useful.
I'm not a big fan of confessing to priests. I find it highly embarrassing to have to tell them how many times I have had gay sex since my last confession, which is why I am never honest. Bless me father for I have sinned. I think dirty thoughts. I lied to my parents. I stole 5 pesos from my flatmate. I am materialistic. I touch myself. Mostly I just tell my sins to myself.
Last night I heard confession for a stranger.
Went to Metrowalk to have a few drinks. We chose a table in the courtyard and ordered a bucket of beer. He takes off his dress shirt because he says it's hot. His wifebeater is soaked in sweat so maybe it is hot.
"I guess you come here often," I said, "seeing as you've been working in Ortigas for several years."
"Yeah, you could say that. Where do you hang out?"
"Used to be I'd drink at Cantina. Nowadays, mostly I go to Malate. To dance."
"So you've been to a gay bar?"
"Yes. Have you?"
"No. I don't want to. I feel like I'll be harassed or something."
"Haha. You don't have to let it happen to you. Sometimes people I don't like come on to me. I just tell them no."
He lights another cigarette. Exhales. "So does that mean you're... a gay?"
"Um, yeah. Aren't you?"
"No." He shakes his head.
"So, that's the question you wanted to ask me earlier."
I lean back in my chair. Awkward silence ensues. The beer is not yet here. And then it is. He opens a bottle and hands it to me. I take a swig. It is cold and sweet and bites my throat.
"So if you're not, you know, why did you follow me around Shang kanina?"
He runs a hand through his short-cropped hair and chooses to ignore the question. We talk about other things. About a beach-side house with a hummock slung between two coconut trees. We talk about his secrets, the ones no one else knows. And they are sad secrets, and I am moved by this, I want to help this guy, I want to hug him, I want to help him be happy again. And then we talk some more, about lighter things this time. And there must have been a lot, because we're ordering our second bucket of beer.
We're sitting knee to knee now, the table has moved away.
"You know why your girlfriend left you? Because you're fucking passive-aggressive."
He shrugs. "See that's my problem, I'm just not vocal about what I want."
"You can't just expect people to know what you want. It's easy to talk about it. For example, tonight, what do you want?"
"I want this," he points to the beer. "And this," he takes a puff at his cigarette. "I want somebody to talk to, because no one's home."
"Are you sure that's all?"
"Yup. What do you want?"
"Honestly? I want you."
He laughs. "Chong, are you trying to seduce me?"
"But I don't have to." I smirk at him.
He laughs again.
We talk some more about things that I can't remember anymore. And then he gets up and leaves and I'm confused, what the hell is going on. I get up to follow him and a thought flashes through my mind. We haven't paid yet. Fuck if I'm paying for this guy. I walk away from our table and no one calls out after me so it must be okay. I scan the crowd and find him. When he sees me he starts walking again.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going home."
"Oh..." I follow him.
"Leave me alone."
"I'm not following you, I'm going home too."
"Okay, fine, go home then."
He jumps a railing and runs across a street.
I run after him.
When I get to the other side, he's gone. I look around but I can't see anything, everything is blurry.
Fuck fuck fuck I tell the street lamp and then I black out.
When I wake up I am on my bed and it is 8 AM. Mark is in the kitchen making breakfast. He tells me that I came home at 12 last night, soaking wet and raving. Am I glad my sister went home to the province. I swear I'm never getting drunk again.
I take a shower and this helps ease my hangover. I go online for a while and then I leave. I have a work errand in Boni and this is not very far away so I should be okay. But I am wrong; there is a queue that takes forever to move and the sun is brutal and I'm hungry but I can't eat. Standing in line I close my eyes and take slow deliberate breaths and this helps me calm down. And then to distract myself from feeling bad about having to work on Saturday, I decide to process what happened last night.
So I send one of my friends a text and our conversation goes like this:
D: I heard confession for a stranger last night.
F: Sounds interesting.
D: Yes it is. He could only share his innermost heart with someone who did not know him.
F: The presence of a stranger encourages honesty.
D: How ironic is it that we lie to the ones we love but share our secrets with strangers?
And I was so taken by what I said that I thought about it for a while. Last night, when I was encouraging the stranger to be honest, I told him, "Dude, you can ask me whatever you want, you can tell me anything. You don't have to be embarrassed because I'm a stranger. Like I could disappear from your life after tonight so it won't really matter what you say." He believed me.
Maybe the truth of what we say matters less than whom we say it to.
Like how sincerely we make love matters less than whom we make love to.
PS. Stranger if you ever happen to read this, I would like to be your friend.